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Dame Edna Everage featuring on a billboard at the Myer department store in Melbourne.

Dame Edna Everage is a character played by Australian comedian Barry Humphries.[1] As Dame Edna, Humphries has written several books and hosted various television shows (on which Humphries has also appeared as himself). In 1979 Dame Edna was the subject of a BBC Arena mockumentary: La Dame aux Gladiolas.

While Humphries freely states that Dame Edna is a character he plays, Dame Edna consistently denies being a fictional character or drag performer, and refers to Humphries as her "entrepreneur" or manager. Indeed, Dame Edna has frequently said that the thought of a man dressing up as a woman for entertainment purposes is repulsive.

Contents

Fictional biography

According to Dame Edna's autobiography, and to statements she has made, she was born Edna May Beazley in the rural city of Wagga Wagga, and started her stage career on 19 December 1955 as Mrs. Norm Everage, an "average Australian housewife" from Moonee Ponds, a Melbourne suburb. Dame Edna was born with a sibling, who gave birth to Barry McKenzie.

She is easily recognisable for her lilac-coloured hair (which she claims is an entirely natural wisteria hue) and over-the-top cat eye glasses.

She spends her time visiting world leaders and jet-setting between her homes in Los Angeles, London, Sydney, Switzerland and Martha's Vineyard. She is a friend and confidante of the Queen.

Like Humphries, Dame Edna has four adult children: two daughters, Valmai (who assisted Dame Edna on her most recent programme for ITV1, The Dame Edna Treatment) and Lois. Her two sons are Bruce, who is married to Joylene, and her youngest, Kenneth (or Kenny), who, when described by Dame Edna, comes across as a caricature of a gay man. Dame Edna shows no awareness of his homosexuality, despite often referring to his 'partner', Clifford Smale. Kenny was shown in Sir Les Patterson's documentary Les Patterson and the Great Chinese Takeaway as a boutique owner in Hong Kong. Dame Edna's mother is incarcerated in a "maximum-security twilight home for the bewildered". Valmai and Kenny are the only family members (so far) to be seen. Her husband, Sir Norman Everage, died in 1988 after many years in hospital suffering from prostate problems and a "testicular murmur".

Besides these family members, her elderly "bridesmaid" Madge Allsop (played by Emily Perry), a New Zealander from Palmerston North, was often present during Dame Edna's appearances and television shows. (Perry died at the age of 100 in 2008 and now Dame Edna's daughter Valmai has replaced her on stage). Madge never spoke a word, though she was often the butt of Dame Edna's jokes.

Dame Edna is praised for her insights into her homeland. When asked why Australians are so good at sport she commented "Good food and diet; open air life; juicy steaks; sunshine — and the total absence of any kind of intellectual distraction."

Dame Edna launched a campaign to be appointed as a BBC newscaster in 2009 after the corporation announced it wished to seek a female newsreader over 50 years old.[2]

Honours

Dame Edna Place at night, marked by lit signs on each wall.

On 7 March 2007 her home town, Melbourne, re-named a city street in her honour: Dame Edna Place[3], formerly Brown Alley off Little Collins Street, was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, John So. Dame Edna Place is opposite Royal Arcade and The Causeway, between the major roads, Elizabeth Street and Swanston Street; it was, until its renaming, a service alley for adjoining buildings. Dame Edna was not at the renaming ceremony but was represented by ten look-alike Dames.

On 16 June 2007 Dame Edna's alter-ego Barry Humphries became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to entertainment.[4]

In MAC Cosmetics 2008 Winter Line-Up, a Dame Edna collection of cosmetics were released including eye shadow, lipstick, powder, and nail polish.

Performances

The Edna Everage character first appeared in a Melbourne comedy revue in 1955. At this time she was "Mrs Norm Everage". An interview with Mrs Everage was one of the programmes screened on HSV-7's first day of programming in 1956.

Her overseas debut, now as Edna Everage, was in the early 1960s at comedian Peter Cook's nightclub, The Establishment, in London's West End, where she received a poor review from Bamber Gascoigne, then the drama critic for The Spectator. Barry Humphries cites Peter Cook as being instrumental in launching Edna's UK career.

In 1972, she appeared as Barry McKenzie's "Aunt Edna" in the film, The Adventures of Barry McKenzie and its sequel Barry McKenzie Holds His Own. It was during this time that she was "knighted" by then Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, becoming "Dame Edna".

Following a growing awareness and appreciation among British audiences for the Dame Edna character because of appearances on British TV shows, Humphries devised a stage show titled Edna Everage Housewife Superstar which was successfully presented in London's West End in the mid 1970s. The show featured monologues, songs and what was becoming an Edna trademark - interaction with the theatre audience.

In April 1976, Edna Everage made an appearance in A Poke in the Eye (with a Sharp Stick) - the first of what became Amnesty International's Secret Policeman's Ball series of benefit shows. Dame Edna performed a song for the show and was featured in the film of the show. Dame Edna also appeared in the 1981 Amnesty show The Secret Policeman's Other Ball.

Edna makes a cameo appearance in the 1978 film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Dame Edna became notable in the UK throughout the 1980s and early 1990s for her semi-regular television shows. Her first specials were in 1978/1979 on the BBC. Although she became popular with broadcaster ITV after her performance on An Audience With Dame Edna in 1980. She would go on to perform two more "An Audience With..." specials (in 1984 and 1988) and was also given her own weekly shows such as The Dame Edna Experience in 1987 and Dame Edna's Neighbourhood Watch in 1992, in which she and her silent, sour-faced "bridesmaid", Madge (see below), had a look at people's houses.

In 2000 and 2004, Dame Edna appeared on Broadway. These were ostensibly not "performances", but rather "appearances", with Dame Edna giving monologues and interacting with audience members. She won the 2000 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One-Person Show.

During 2001 and 2002, Dame Edna appeared in the fifth season of the television show Ally McBeal playing the guest role of Claire Otoms, a client of the show's law firm who later became a secretary at the same firm. The character shared Dame Edna's voice and style and was explicitly listed in the opening credits as being played by Dame Edna Everage (although Barry Humphries received a credit in the closing credits). Claire Otoms is an anagram of "A Sitcom Role".

In the 2002 motion picture Nicholas Nickleby Dame Edna plays the role of Mrs. Crummles, an actress and wife of the manager of a provincial theater company. Barry Humphries also appears in the film as Mr. Leadville.

Dame Edna appeared at the Queen's Golden Jubilee Concert, the "Party at the Palace" in London in 2002, where she referred to the Queen as the "jubilee girl". She also featured at the Closing Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games 2006 in Melbourne, Australia. During her act she sang a song containing her thoughts on Melbourne and Australia in general. On 20 May 2006 she appeared on ITV's coverage of The Prince's Trust annual fundraiser. She took part in a Blind Date themed skit, picking Chico Slimani over Roger Moore and Richard E Grant.

In the summer of 2006, Dame Edna appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno alongside Billy Crystal. On 23 September 2006, during an interview on Parkinson, she revealed that she would be returning to ITV in 2007 with a new chat show, The Dame Edna Treatment. The show began on Saturday 17 March 2007, with the set-up being that Edna runs a health spa where various famous guests come for treatment.

On Wednesday 17 December 2006, Dame Edna appeared as a guest panellist on the ABC TV Show Spicks and Specks where she sang with presenter Adam Hills.

On 16 December 2007 she appeared as the final guest on the final episode of the Parkinson UK talk show.

On 29 May 2008 she appeared on The Graham Norton Show alongside Ray Mears and Alanis Morissette.

On 8 August 2008 she appeared on Loose Women on their final show of the series.

On 12 September 2008, Monday 15 December 2008, and Wednesday 27 May 2009, she appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

In early 2009 she appeared in adverts to publicise the insurance company Norwich Union's change of name to Aviva, quoting her change of name from Mrs Everage.

On 9 June 2009, she appeared as a guest on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

On 17 July 2009, she appeared as a guest on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.

On an episode of The One Show in September 2009 a piece of graffiti on Sunderland's Penshaw Monument read "Edna Woz Ere 09" and a pair of Everage's signature glasses were drawn next to it.

On 21 September 2009 she appeared on the C4, Paul O'Grady Show, where she complained of a burst appendix in Australia, but said of course she is happy to be back in the UK.

Discography

  • The Dame Edna Party Experience (Epic Records, 1988)[5]
  1. Bad / When Will I Be Famous / Layla (Alias Edna) / I Should Be So Lucky / The Locomotion / Bad 'Nice' (Reprise)
  2. Waltzing Matilda (Instrumental Intro) / The Twist
  3. Venus / Like A Virgin / Girls Just Want To Have Fun / Venus (Reprise)
  4. Shout (Part 1)
  5. Shout (Part II)
  6. I Got You Babe (Who Needs You Babe) [with Sir Les Patterson]
  7. I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) / Stop! In The Name Of Love / Dancing In The Street / I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) (Reprise)
  8. Neighbours
  9. Leader Of The Pack / It's My Party
  • Theme From Neighbours (Epic Records, 1988) [Produced by David Mackay]
  1. Theme From Neighbours (Caring And Sharing Mix) / Spooky Christmas
  2. Shout (Parts One And Two)

Controversy

In 2003, Vanity Fair magazine invited Dame Edna to write a satirical advice column; a piece published in the February issue created a storm of controversy when Dame Edna, in a reply to a reader who asked if she should learn Spanish, wrote:

Forget Spanish. There's nothing in that language worth reading except Don Quixote, and a quick listen to the CD of Man of La Mancha will take care of that ... Who speaks it that you are really desperate to talk to? The help? Your leaf blower?

Members of the Hispanic community read the joke as a deliberately racist remark, and complaints flooded in to the magazine. Hollywood actress Salma Hayek responded angrily, penning a furious letter in which she denounced Dame Edna (not realising that 'she' was actually a man in drag). Death threats were even received and Vanity Fair was eventually forced to publish a full-page apology to the Hispanic community.

Humphries commented later: "If you have to explain satire to someone, you might as well give up." When Dame Edna was questioned about the controversy on the eve of her 2003 Australian tour, she retorted that Hayek's denunciation was due to "professional jealousy", and that Hayek was envious because the role of painter Frida Kahlo (for which Hayek received an Oscar nomination) had originally been offered to Edna:

When I was offered the part of Frida I turned it down, and she was the second choice. I said 'I'm not playing the role of a woman with a moustache and a monobrow, and I'm not having same-sex relations on the screen' ... I'm not racist. I love all races, particularly white people. You know, I even like Roman Catholics.

Quotes

"The badge, Madge, the badge!"

"Excuse I"

"Quick Sticks"

"Spooky!"

"Call me old fashioned"

"Hello, Possums!"

"This double chin was grafted onto me, in Brazil. It belonged to Elizabeth Taylor. It was her left love handle."

"Andrew Lloyd Webber doesn't need necessarily to be on camera does he? I think the old phantom could have lent him a mask or two... No I'm teasing, and he'd know if he's watching, which I hope he isn't."

"In Australia, our houses aren't all joined together like yours to stop them from falling over."

"Never be afraid to laugh at yourself, after all, you could be missing out on the joke of the century."

"I'm trying to find a word to describe what you're wearing... affordable!"

"Never in England I was given any chance... I'm better than Judi Dench, much much better and I'm afraid taller!"

Ad lib talking with an audience member during a Broadway "appearance": "Oh, you live in a French Provincial house in New Jersey. I wonder if they have New Jersey houses in France."

"I mean that in a loving, caring way!"

Whenever someone from the audience catcalls and does a "wooooooo!" followed by a whistle, she'll snap "What a stupid noise!"

References in other media

Dame Edna was also mentioned in a song, "This One's Just For You", by Australian songwriter and comedian, Kevin Bloody Wilson.

In The Simpsons episode "The Regina Monologues", Homer makes a brief reference to Dame Edna.

References

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Barry Humphries article)

From Wikiquote

Barry Humphries, Australian comedian and actor, b. 1934

"To live in Australia permanently is rather like going to a party and dancing all night with one's mother."

  • There is no more terrible fate for a comedian than to be taken seriously. — My Life as Me: A Memoir (2002)
  • Although there were many who did the dirty on him in the envious world of letters, Stephen* never let any of them live rent-free in his brain. — My Life as Me: A Memoir
  • And so I set these things down before the onset of the first of a thousand small physical degradations as, in a still-distant suburb, Death strides whistling towards me. My Life as Me: A Memoir (closing line)

"New Zealand is a country of thirty thousand million sheep, three million of whom think they are human. "

Contents

As Dame Edna Everage

  • Hello possums! (Greeting to her audience)
  • I was born in Melbourne with a precious gift. Dame Nature stooped over my cot and gave me this gift. It was the ability to laugh at the misfortunes of others.
  • Forget Spanish. There's nothing in that language worth reading except Don Quixote, and a quick listen to the CD of Man of La Mancha will take care of that. There was a poet named Garcia Lorca, but I'd leave him on the intellectual back burner if I were you. As for everyone's speaking it, what twaddle! Who speaks it that you are really desperate to talk to? The help? Your leaf blower? Study French or German, where there are at least a few books worth reading, or, if you're American, try English. (Advice given in a Vanity Fair agony column)
  • (to a member of the audience, Back with Vengeance tour, Melbourne, 2006) I'm trying to think of a word to describe your outfit ...affordable.

As Sir Les Patterson

  • The Yartz. (Sir Les's area of concern)
  • I'm that low I could parachute out of a snake's arsehole and still have room to free-fall.
  • Are you with me? (Sir Les's usual comment to the audience after a suggestive remark)
  • My wife's so boring, she could bore an arsehole on a wooden horse.

As Barry McKenzie

  • I'm up shit creek in a barb-wire canoe without a paddle.
  • He was as busy as a one-armed taxi driver with crabs.

About Barry Humphries

  • He would have been a handful in any society. He is a misfit and fully conscious of it. The punctilio of his old-world manners, the dandified scrupulosity of his Savile Row suits, are compelled by an unsleeping awareness that he has no more business among ordinary human beings than a Venusian.
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